Fine Motor Skills
Development of Hand-Eye Coordination
Gaining the ability to touch what you see
After discovering their hands, babies need to learn that they can activate them, make use of them
Ten-week-old Emma lies comfortably watching the toys of her activity gym hanging above her. She is focused on the colorful toy hanging within reach of her hand. She looks at the toy for a few seconds and then suddenly, puts her hand out and swings it towards the toy and … misses. Emma is busy developing the coordination between her eyes and her hand. She is trying to learn how to bring her hand directly to the object she is focusing on.
It’s difficult for us, as adults, to understand the significance of the concept of “hand-eye coordination” because we take this coordination for granted. When we look at an object and want to touch it, we don’t give a second thought to the task at hand. Our hand moves as though of its own in the direction of the object, and closes exactly at the right place.
This obvious action is the result of many months of during the first year. This is the amazing process through which we gain the ability to coordinate between our hands and our eyes.
Newborns don’t associate what their eyes see with what their hands do. Often their eyes look in one direction, while their hands move randomly in another. Babies can’t move their hands toward an object they see. Furthermore, they are still unaware that these hands, which belong to them, are part of their bodies. Most of the time their hands are outside of their vision, and they are not even aware of them.
Babies first have to discover that they have hands. This usually happens at about six to eight weeks. Babies discover their hands through touching. They grab one hand with the fingers of the other hand. They pull on them, and open and close their fingers. At this stage, their movements are usually random; they don’t yet lift their hands in front of their eyes to intentionally look at them. At six to eight weeks, objects that make noise, such as a rattle, should be put into baby’s hands. Newborns are born with a gripping reflex, automatically clasping their hands around an object placed in them -- they will therefore also grasp a rattle put in their hands. Then, when they move their hands randomly, they hear the rattling noise and look for the source of the sound with their eyes. When they discover the rattle, they will also discover the hand grasping it.
Light toys that can be held and make sounds when shaken, are known to be significant during the weeks that follow. They draw babies’ eyes and attention to what they are holding in their hands. They help babies establish the connection between themselves and their hands. When they have learned to intentionally bring their hands within their vision, their hands become their most fascinating toy. They don’t take their eyes off of their hands; they wave them in front of their faces, examine them in amazement and play with them endlessly.